11/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Is Your Sleep Deprivation Leading You to Diabetes?

Pop quiz: Which of the following words does not seem to go with the others?

  • Obesity
  • Calories
  • Insulin
  • Sleep
  • Fat

If you said sleep, you're right. Er, you're wrong actually.

While sleep may not seem like it belongs in the same category as words that revolve around weight, it actually has everything to do with weight and whether or not you're at risk for diabetes. Two fascinating studies that just came out to further prove it:

1.     One study out of a sleep lab at Penn State College showed that insomniacs who slept only five to six hours a night had greater odds of developing diabetes.

2.     Theotherstudy, this one from the University of Chicago and published in this month's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, demonstrated that sleep deprivation mixed with sedentary living and free access to food can change the body's physiology to the point it resembles that of a prediabetic. In other words, the body's insulin resistance and glucose tolerance shifts, leaning toward a dangerous condition that's a precursor to full-blown diabetes.

I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty remarkable...and scary. This change in physiology, by the way, in the second study happened over the course of just two weeks as healthy adults were forced to get by on only five hours a night.

None of this was news to me. I've written numerous timesabout the impact of quality sleep in our ability to lose and maintain a healthy weight, and avoid the ravages of diabetes.

Other studies have also shown what happens when we miss out on sleep. We can't seem to go a day without more news about our diabetes and obesity problem. But I still find that the conversation about this hugely popular topic often gravitates toward access to healthy diet choices, and ways to get more regular physical activity. What about access to more and better sleep?  

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD

The Sleep Doctor™

This article on diabetes, weight and sleep is also available at Dr. Breus's official blog, The Insomnia Blog.